French fancy for Tri-Nations
Ireland look set to miss out on a place in the Tri-Nations Series when it returns to the schedule in 2009.
Last Updated: 11/11/08 3:54pm
Ireland look set to miss out on a place in the 2009 Tri-Nations Series despite their impressive performances at the World Cup.
After a two-year break the tournament is set to return to the international schedule next autumn with games to be played in the United Kingdom.
England will replace Great Britain alongside Australia and New Zealand but the Irish seem unlikely to be the fourth and final team to be involved.
Despite finishing last at the World Cup, France have the support of Richard Lewis - the vice-chairman of the International Federation who heads up the European body.
"The Four Nations, in my view, should be unchanged," Lewis said. "It should be exactly what has been planned.
"France have a more developed infrastructure. It's a bigger sport in France at the moment, and they deserve an opportunity to play in the Four Nations.
"They have been playing consistently every year against Australia and New Zealand. One of the key issues is that they are capable of staging matches, and that's important for the international game.
"Certainly France have been one of the disappointments in the World Cup - and they are the first to admit that - but it doesn't mean to say they don't deserve a chance in 2009 to play in the Four Nations."
Ireland have been the surprise package of the tournament Down Under, qualifying for the knockout stages from a tough pool that contained Tonga and Samoa.
Their run was eventually ended by Fiji in the semi-final qualifier and Lewis, who was amongst the 8,224 crowd at the at Gold Coast's Skilled Stadium on Monday, believes the good work done on the field must now be carried on off it.
"The Irish performed very creditably, but first we need to develop the game in Ireland," he added.
"They have got good development work going on there. The number of clubs and teams is increasing, and we need more of that.
"I hope the Irish government and their equivalent of the sports council will get behind them.
"Scotland, Wales and Ireland in a European Nations Cup would be a full-on competition. There could be other countries too - Russia, for example.
"It would be an attraction, and those nations - and Ireland in particular - would be able to increasingly stake a claim to be included in the Four Nations. But I think 2009 would be too early."